Example Proposal




Cover Page: Place a descriptive title of your proposal at the top of the page.


Example: A Novel Real Time Quantitative Analytical Spectroscopy Technique for Analyzing All the Congeners Emerging from a Distillation Process


State you full name, title, address, and contact information including where you are also currently employed if applicable to this proposal:


Robin A. Felder PhD
Sole Proprietor Monte Piccolo Farm and Distillery
3135 Blandemar Dr.
Charlottesville, VA 22903
(M) 434-305-7979


Other employment:
The University of Virginia, Professor of Pathology, Associate Director Laboratory Medicine
Medical Automation.org, Founding Chairman


Provide a personal biography no longer than 250 words:


This applicant is the Master Distiller at Monte Piccolo Farm and Distillery http://montepiccolo.com as well Professor of Pathology, Associate Director of Laboratory Medicine at the University of Virginia, and Chair of Medical Automation.org. He has published over 300 papers, reviews and chapters, co-edited 3 textbooks on medical automation, and founded the leading journal on laboratory automation. He has been awarded 27 patents and has founded 9 biotech companies, including 2 non-profit organizations including the Association for Laboratory Automation as well as Medical Automation.org. He received his PhD in Biochemistry from Georgetown University and completed his post doc at the NIH. He has received numerous awards including the Engelberger Robotics Award, UVA’s first Innovator of the Year, and the Annual Research Awards from the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, and National Academy for Clinical Biochemistry. At Monte Piccolo Distillery, he is currently creating novel fruit eau-de-vie style brandies as well as varietal gins™.


At least two reference letters are required. They should be submitted with complete names, addresses, and contact information. References should be obtained preferably from individuals in the distilling industry that are familiar with your scientific approach to craft distillation. References should be in letter format with no more than one page of text in the following format:
1st paragraph – Your referee should state why they feel they are qualified to rate your scientific acumen and how long they have been a distilling colleague who is familiar with your distilling activities.


2nd paragraph: Your referee should indicate their familiarity with your stated specific aims and how likely your work will significantly advance the field of scientific distilling.


3rd paragraph: Your referee should indicate their willingness to discuss your progress on a monthly basis and recommend alternative approaches should results not agree with the stated hypothesis.


Example: Letters of support follow this page from Ian Glomski PhD, Vitae Sprits, Charlottesville, VA, Denver Riggleman, US Virginia Congressman (5th District), Owner Silverback Distillery,
Alex Toomy, Owner Ragged Branch Distillery, Charlottesville, VA, Lyons Brown MBA (UVA Darden Business School graduate), Former chairman and chief executive officer of Brown-Forman Corporation, currently Altamar Brands, Charlottesville, VA




Abstract: Summarize the area of research are you performing and any preliminary data you have generated indicating that you are capable of generating data to support your hypothesis. Abstracts should not be longer than 500 words.


The hypothesis to be tested in this application is that a novel form of spectrometry, molecular rotation spectroscopy (MRS) can analyze and improve the heads/heart “cut” in craft distilling volatile distillation congeners in real time during a distillation run. In order to test this hypothesis a collaboration has been formed with the Chemistry Department at the University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA) to test the ability of the novel MRS technology to measure the molecular content of the heads and hearts of pear eau-de-vie style fresh pear brandy. Normally, the heads and hearts “cut” are made at the sensory discretion of the distiller. The “cut” can vary greatly based on the olfactory acuity of the distiller and the content of the fruit due annual seasonal variation. Distillers would appreciate an objective measure of their distilling skills, or to improve their distilling skills such as when and how much offensive compounds like acetaldehyde, methanol, butanol are emerging from their process and when and how much pleasant fruit esters such as ethyl 2,4 decadienoate (EDDO) are emerging. I have been researching methods to measure molecules in the distillation vapor before and immediately after it emerges from the still. Traditional methods are either not sufficiently definitive (gas chromatography), too expensive and laborious (mass spectrometry), or haven’t been invented yet. MRS instrument was recently developed by Brooks Pate PhD, which is now commercialized and is in use by the pharmaceutical industry to test the purity of raw materials destined to be the drugs approved by the FDA. Because of the high spectral purity of microwave light sources and high dynamic range, Chirped Pulse Fourier Transform Microwave (CP-FTMW) spectroscopy, also known as MRS, provides unparalleled ability to unambiguously determine molecular structure. Since the rotational transition frequencies of a given species are determined purely by the moments of inertia of the molecule, mass shifts due to isotopic substitution generally cause relatively large shifts in transition frequency with respect to the spectral resolution. The acquisition and assignment of isotopically substituted spectra of a target species allow determination, with application of Kraitchman’s equations or least linear squares fitting (see OSU ISMS talk: 2012 RH03), accurate experimental molecular structures with precision at the level of a few picometers. Thankfully, the high dynamic range of CP-FTMW generally allows for detection of the most common heavy atom isotopologues in natural abundance, as well. For representative results, see recent talks in the Publications section of my collaborator and colleague Brooks Pate PhD. http://faculty.virginia.edu/bpate-lab/cpftmw.html


Background and Significance: Why is this important and what goes before it? Is there anything already published on it?


Example: Brandy distillation is a particularly challenging art due to the complexity associated with growing ideally ripened fruit, managing an ideal fermentation, followed by a skilled distillation. Normally, the heads and hearts “cut” is made at the sensory discretion of the distiller. The “cut” can vary greatly based on the olfactory acuity of the distiller and the content of the fruit due seasonal variation. Distillers would appreciate an objective measure of their distilling skills such as which offensive compounds when and how much offensive compounds like acetaldehyde, methanol, butanol are emerging from their process and when and how much pleasant fruit esters such as ethyl 2,4 decadienoate (EDDO) are emerging. Award winning pear brandies in Europe have concentrations of EDDO well over the flavor threshold for expert testers. In other words, if one knows the concentration and identity of award winning esters as the distillation is progressing, one can decide how to adjust the process or back blend the products in order to improve the tasting experience for the consumer.
Results using MRS unequivocally demonstrate that flavor esters up to 15 carbons. MRS technology has been published, commercialized, and has received awards (UVA’s Innovation of the Year, 2016). http://faculty.virginia.edu/bpate-lab/cpftmw.html.


Timeline: What do you hope to achieve this year?

Month 1 – 3 – Collect specimens on site at Vitae, Monte Piccolo, and Silverback distilleries to assure proper sampling, quality control, and labeling.


Month 4- 6 – Analyze the specimens in triplicate, perform data reduction, statistical analysis, and validation with analytical statisticians and scientific distillers (Ian Glomski PhD).


Month 6-12 – This applicant will write and submit for publication our scientific articles. We will also write, as required, the article for the ADI Distiller magazine. If the budget allows we will expand the scope of fruit brandies. This grant will allow us to launch this project so that it can write additional grants to fully vet the use of MRS in a wide variety of distilling arenas from the smallest craft distilleries to large commercial distilleries through my connection with one of the principal owners of the Browns Forman Corporation. This applicant has been successful in raising over $70M in grants from the National Institutes of Health over the last 40 years.


Scientific approach: How will you attempt to do this (internal, external lab)?




The laboratory of Dr. Brooks Pate PhD (inventor of MRS) has been in operation for over a decade. He has built two of the first few MRS instruments in the World. These research full spectrum spectrometers are designed to identify any and all relatively small compounds in volatile liquids (such as the effluent from a still). Once the compounds from distillations have been catalogued, then smaller less expensive instruments can be used specifically for distillation where side sampling of liquid or vapor streams is possible. For example, fruit esters in brandies are generally under 10 carbons and thus are much easier and faster to quantify (real time) than compounds in pharmaceuticals.


Alternative approach: What other approaches will you use if the stated approach yield unexpected or uninterpretable results.


Example: This applicant will use a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer to analyze esters that can’t be deciphered using MRS spectroscopy. Some long chain esters may assume conformational shapes that yield complex conformations that will require physical chemistry mathematical approaches that may be beyond current scientific knowledge.


Interpretation and summary of the outcome: How will you interpret the results?


Example: Use standard materials (e.g. acetaldehyde, methanol, butanol, propanol, 2,4 decadieneoate, etc.) obtained commercially already on the shelf at Monte Piccolo Distillery to validate the results as we have in our preliminary studies. We will also analyze some notable European Williams pear brandies (e.g. Poire William, Morand Family, Martigny Switzerland, Rochelt Spirits, Innsbrook Austria) since these are the fruit brandies on which scientific literature has been published. MRS is unique in being able to positively identify and quantify all but the most very large and complex congeners found in most analytical processes. Blind smelling and tasting with local distillers will be performed and quantified using the flavor wheel approach to determine how far off some individuals will be in classifying their distillates. Professional tasters will be available at the Browns Forman Corporation (personal communication from Lyons Brown to Robin Felder) to see how their impressions differ from our local craft distillers.


Statistics: What statistical measure will be used to analyze and report the data:


Example: All analyses will be performed in triplicate and reported as the mean ± standard error of the mean. We anticipate finding up to 40 of the most abundant congeners per specimen yielding 1,920 data points that will need some relatively extensive computer time for application of Kraitchman’s equations or least linear squares fitting for accurate determination of molecular structures with precision at the level of a few picometers. Students T test will be used to assess differences between analytical results and significance will be reported as p values less than or equal to 0.05.


Anticipated Outcome: If successful with the findings how should the research process further or what will this contribute to the distilling field?


This applicant has demonstrated in a 2016 academic year long student project that the FFMR instrument can be instrumental in improving the quality control of craft level distilled spirits. Based on this preliminary data and resulting publications (in preparation), we will be applying for grants from the National Science Foundation and crowd sourcing funds from large commercial distillers. This applicant has generated over $70M in federal funding and published over 300 publications during his research career. He will ultimately retire full time into his craft distillery and use his scientific knowledge to further art and science of craft distilling.




Budget: State the amount requested for each component of your work followed by a justification for the requested amount.

Request: $400 Justification: Specimen collection disposables: gloves (prevent human contamination), screw cap tubes, pipettes, marking pens, sequentially labelled bar codes, specimen racks (for repository use for reanalysis if necessary) Note: all sampling events will be represented by three samples since distillations can’t be repeated easily.
Request: $6,000 – Justification: $125/specimen x 48 specimens = (UVA contract bulk specimen rate, indirect costs included)
Total Request: $6,400



1. S. Grimme and M. Steinmetz, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 15, 16031-16042 (2013).
2. R.D. Suenram, J.U. Grabow, A. Zuban, and I. Leonov, Rev. Sci. Instrum. 70, 2127-2135 (1999).
3. C. West et al.,” Analysis of pear ester flavoring samples using broadband rotational spectroscopy,” 2018 International Symposium on Molecular Spectroscopy, Oral Presentation RH06.
4. Willner B, Granvogl M, Sceberle P. Characterization of the key aroma compounds in Bartlett Pear brandies by means of the sensomics concept. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 61,9583-9593 (2013).
5. Hodgson, R.T. “An examination of judge reliability at a major U.S. wine competition. Journal  of Wine Economics, Vol 3, Issue 2, 105-113  (2008).